In a basement in winter, poppies and sunflowers sprang to life last week in Marion, nurtured by a North Carolina artist with a local connection.
Nikki Cherry loves to paint. The Asheboro, N.C. artist credits her grandmother Ollie for that. As a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., Cherry devoted her attention to oil painting, graduating in 2005.
“My grandmother is an artist, and I’ve been painting all my life,” Cherry said. “I think I’ve taken every available art class I could.”
Cherry also loves Andy Crofoot, son of Jim and Joni Crofoot of Marion. Joni said Nikki and Andy met on the Junior League Christmas Market circuit, while Andy was working as a marketing representative for Sarahjanes, a San Antonio, Texas business owned by his sister, Sarah Voss.
“When I found out Nikki and Andy were coming for Christmas, I asked if there was a possibility Nikki could do a class,” Crofoot said.
Cherry has been painting professionally for five years, and started teaching a variety of classes in 2011, designed to be a simple, fun introduction to painting with acrylics.
Once Cherry agreed, Crofoot used family and personal contacts, as well as social media, to recruit.
“Some of my friends knew of Nikki and had seen some of the things she’d done,” Crofoot said. “I mostly put it on Facebook, and that’s where the response came from.”
Crofoot booked the Marion City Building basement for two sessions, and added a third when interest surged. Providing the necessary equipment and materials was a team effort.
“I lugged easels on the plane,” Cherry said. “Andy and Joni picked up a lot of the canvasses.”
Tables were set up to accommodate 20 participants per session, with refreshments and snacks provided to lend to a more casual, social atmosphere.
“I’ve been teaching this style of classes for about a year,” Cherry said. “I started doing it on my own. It was a growing trend.”
While Cherry prefers oil painting, she uses acrylics for teaching.
“I used to work in oils — I love them. But they take so long to dry they’re not good to teach with,” Cherry said.
Hesitant participants were quickly put at ease by Cherry’s style of instruction and light-hearted, encouraging demeanor, a combination she’s developed as she’s taught.
“I took classes from some really phenomenal artists, but they weren’t the best teachers,” Cherry said. “I just use simple shapes, stuff that everybody will understand.”
“You really didn’t have to be artistic. A lot of people said, ‘Oh, I don’t have any talent,’” Crofoot said.
Poppies were the subject for afternoon and evening sessions Dec. 27, and Dec. 28’s class focused on sunflowers.
“I did not want to teach the sunflowers because it’s harder, but they forced me to,” Cherry laughed.
Cherry is accustomed to having repeat students in her classes in Asheboro, but she was pleased with how her new students did.
“They did really good, because they’re all new to me,” Cherry said. “They did really well.”
“Everybody loved it, they want her to come back and do some more,” Crofoot said. “I’ve heard a lot of people have already hung their paintings.”
Cherry hopes her classes encourage some participants to continue painting.
“It kind of inspires people, makes them feel good, and then they try it on their own,” Cherry said. “We had to leave some paint for one of Joni’s neighbors.”
Participants may get the opportunity to experience Cherry’s teaching again.
“I might come back and do some in the spring,” Cherry said.